City seeks volunteers for emergency response team

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Friday, 06 July 2012 15:42

Last year Brigantine avoided potential disaster when Hurricane Irene (by then downgraded to a tropical storm) made landfall just north of the island. Evacuation of the island, under the direction of Governor Christie, went well – with the possible exception of issues with finding shelter for all evacuees. We suffered minimal damage in view of a major catastrophic event, but we may not be so lucky next time.
The Atlantic County Department of Emergency Management had been developing county and municipal CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams) to supplement the local first responders who might be overwhelmed by a potential local event. CERT was developed and implemented by the City of Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985. They recognized that citizens would very likely be on their own during the early stages of a catastrophic disaster. Accordingly, LAFD decided that some basic training in disaster survival and rescue skills would improve the ability of citizens to survive and to safely help others until first responders or other assistance could arrive.
The training model that the LAFD initiated was adopted by other fire departments around the country, including communities where hurricanes are the major threat. Building on this development, in 1994 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expanded the CERT materials to address all hazards and made the program available nationwide.
The CERT program seeks to engage everyone in America in making their communities safer, more prepared, and more resilient when incidents occur. With training and information, individuals and community groups can be prepared to serve as a crucial resource capable of performing many emergency functions needed in the immediate post-disaster period.
Extensive research of the 1962 storm that devastated Brigantine, when the sea met the bay with devastating results, shows the need for residents to be prepared. The stories of longtime residents as well as the pictures of that event clearly illustrate what will happen when the island of Brigantine encounters a direct hit by a hurricane in the future.
At the urging of Fire Chief James Holl and Emergency Management Director Lt. Jim Bennett, this reporter signed up for Atlantic County’s CERT basic training program – a 24-hour program taught over a series of Saturdays.
The course covered the following subjects: Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety and Utility Controls, Disaster Medical Operations, Search and Rescue Operations, CERT Organization, Disaster Psychology, Terrorism and CERT and concluded with a disaster simulation and final exam.
CERT training is an ongoing program and has hundreds of training modules to prepare for an eventual emergency.
The city of Brigantine is currently looking for volunteers for the municipal CERT team. CERT volunteers will assist local first responders whenever the magnitude of a disaster overwhelms their resources. To support this development, the county’s Emergency Management team has agreed to come teach the course in Brigantine this fall.
If you are interested in becoming part of this team in order to protect residents and their homes in an emergency situation, contact Lt. Jim Bennett at jbennett@brigantinebeachnj.com

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